The Social Media Iceberg

Social Media is a huge part of public relations, and it’s becoming more relevant as technology interweaves itself into everybody’s day to day lives. Nicole Matejic compares social media to an iceberg (2015). The comparison between the two seemingly unrelated things, is that there is a small amount of them available for viewing to the public. An iceberg is significantly larger underwater than it is above. This is true for social media in regard to public relations as well.

Above water, or what’s easily accessible to the public, is the organizational social media channels. This includes all public social media, your Facebook, your Twitter, etc. All of the magic behind crisis communications, along with analytics, which are infinitely important, is what lies below the surface (Matejic, 2015). An analogy made in the book, says “Much like those onboard the Titanic that fateful night in 1912, crisis communicators looking at the social media landscape without the information that lies beneath the surface of all social networks — their data — are steaming toward disaster” (Matejic, 2015, pg. 6).

The data that they’re referring to includes, “the geographical locations of your audience, peak post-engagement times, age and gender aggregated data, externally referring sites (such as your blog or website), how many clicks per URL in a post (further broken down into geographical regions), your audience’s aggregated interests (both professional and personal), and which type of post they are more likely to interact with (picture, video, text and so on)” (Matejic, 2015, pg. 6). Without this very important data, a company would have no clue which types of content are succeeding, and which are sinking (pardon my pun), both during a crisis, and day to day.

This type of data didn’t always exist though, in fact, the channels that we receive this data from is fairly new as well. In the past, someone in public relations would spend more of their time writing press releases, to give on air, release in print or publish online (Boitnott, 2017). Nowadays, social media is the primary channel for a company to release official information, but this isn’t the only thing it’s used for.

Public Relations specialists also use social media to find influencers, to identify brand threads, to influence journalists stories, to swiftly react to negative press, and to make announcements (Boitnott, 2017). With a world as digital as ours is today, it’s hard to imagine how a company ever interacted with their customers as much as they can today, considering all they have to do now to show they’re seeing what someone is saying is ‘like’ their tweet.

In addition to all of the ways that PR can use social media, it’s important to realize that the goal of the two are nearly identical: to create a two-way conversation between an organization and the people it wants to influence. When a company uses social media, it becomes a lot easier for them to interact with their audience, and also to tell their story. Posting on facebook is free, whereas a commercial can cost thousands of dollars, but the one thing to remember is that “Storytelling is a constant effort. Be strategic and plan your stories and the mediums you will use to tell them” (Pollard, 2016, para 9).

As a person working in public relations, it is essential to remember the iceberg analogy. Some things are going to work better than others, and it’s all going to depend on what you’re promoting, and who you’re promoting it to. In order to figure out what is going to work the best for your specific situation, it’s necessary to be checking the analytics of your social media, and adjusting your plans accordingly.

Boitnott, J. (2017). 5 Ways You Should Be Using Social Media as Your Top PR Platform. Inc., Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/john-boitnott/bhow-social-media-is-now-your-primary-public-rel.html

Pollard, C. (2016). Why You Should Combine Your PR And Social Media. Huffpost. Retrieved from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/catriona-pollard/why-pr-and-social-media-i_b_12568802.html

Matejic, N. (2015). Social media rules of engagement: Why your online narrative is the best weapon during a crisis. Milton, Qld: John Wiley & Sons Australia.

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Adopt What?

Public Relations has a lot of different parts to it, including several theories or processes. Two of these are very similar, those would be the diffusion theory, and the adoption process. Some instances of these theories are thought to be continuous, in an article by Phillip J. Kitchen, he talks about how PR adopted the internet, he says,

In fact, adoption of the internet for PR purposes could be considered a continuous (as compared to discontinuous or incremental) innovation, although such use is now mainstream. Adoption and diffusion processes are not, however, a one-time instantaneous event simultaneously affecting all practitioners. Instead, adoption can be a long slow process, and following Rogers (1995), the way an innovation (product, process, system or idea) diffuses through a social system over time is just as important as the innovation itself. (2010, para 5)

Towards the end of the quote, Kitchen is talking about how the process in which something enters a social system can be just as important as the thing itself, which is why it’s so important to know the difference between the adoption process and the diffusion theory.

When people are making a purchase, it’s generally pretty thought out, of course, everyone makes an impulse purchase here and there, but for the most part people think about stuff before they buy it, “therefore, the strategy behind an organization’s product or service must also be calculated to obtain the most effective results possible” (Diffuse This, 2011, para 3). Both the diffusion theory and the adoption process are very carefully planned processes, and although they are very similar, they have their distinct differences.

One difference is the main usage of the theories, the diffusion theory is generally used for ideas or products, whereas the adoption process usually for issues or products. The other differences happen within the process of the theories. Both start with the awareness stage, this is when someone finds out about a product, they usually hear about it because of an advertisement or a news story, somewhere in the media. Following awareness is interest. The interest stage is when someone would be intrigued by the product/idea/issue and they’d be seeking out more information.

After Interest, is where the two theories vary. The diffusion theory would then go to trial, then evaluation, while the adoption process would go to evaluation, then trial. This means that in the diffusion theory, the people would try the product and then evaluate it, whereas in the adoption process, they would evaluate the process to see if it’s even worth giving it a try.

Although they happen in a different order, the ideas are the same. During the evaluation stage they would be looking deeper into a product, and evaluating it based on their wants and needs, they would also be talking to family and friends to see if it is something they should consider. The trial stage is when they actually try the product. They’d generally start with a sample, or a demo, but the product would be in their hands so they could physically give it a try.

The final stage is the same for both theories. This is the adoption stage. At this point, they’ve done all their research, and they’re ready to integrate the product/idea/issue into their daily lives. Sometimes during this theory, they also talk to their friends about the product/idea/issue and would generally be talking very highly about whatever they had just adopted which would in turn make their friend or family more likely to start one of these processes on their own.

These processes are also very important because “Marketing tools may change, the way consumers discover products may change, and consumer behaviors may change, but the 5 stages that make up the  consumer adoption process will always remain the same” (Chandra, 2014, para 1). So no matter how much technology advances, this process will remain the same. The way the processes are executed may change, but the five main steps will be identical.

 

Chandra, N. (2014, October 28). 5 Stages to the Consumer Adoption Process [Expanded].

Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://welink.com/blog/2014/10/27/the-consumer-adoption-process-never-changes/

Kitchen, P.J., (2010), Online public relations: The adoption process and innovation challenge, a Greek example. Public Relations Review, Volume 36(3).

Diffuse This. (2011, January 11). Retrieved October 31, 2017, from https://elwinpr.wordpress.com/tag/diffusion-theory/

Adidas Drops the Bomb

Being able to handle a crisis is an essential part of being in the public relations field. Public relations is all about making sure your client is putting their best foot forward and a huge part of that is making sure their reputation isn’t ruined after a crisis.

Earlier in the year, Adidas sent out an email with the subject line “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” (Calfas, 2017). Given that just four short years ago the Boston Marathon was home to one of America’s biggest bombings (Berry, 2013), one that injured 260 people and killed three, many people thought this was a pretty inappropriate subject line (Calfas, 2017).

One of Adidas’ major marketing strategies is sponsorship (Advani, 2016), and they had created official Boston Marathon gear for runners of the race (Calfas, 2017). The email was being sent to runners to not only congratulate them on completing the race but to advertise their Boston Marathon merchandise.

The conflict management life cycle begins in the proactive stage. The proactive stage includes environmental scanning, issues tracking, issues management, and crisis planning. These are all very similar in the respect that they all relate to preparing for a crisis. This is the stage of the cycle where a company is actively trying to either avoid crises completely or be completely prepared for them when they do happen.

After the proactive stage is the strategic stage. The strategic stage is where a company would be planning for a conflict to become a crisis. Seeing as Adidas wasn’t planning to send out an email that would enrage everyone who got it, this stage isn’t a major part of their plan. However, if it had been it would have included risk communication, conflict positioning, and crisis management. These things all have to do with preparing for the crisis.

Next is the reactive stage. This happens right after the conflict explodes, or in this case, the email is sent. Immediately after Adidas sent the email, it blew up all over social media, and people around the world were talking about it. There were screenshots of the email all over Twitter with captions like “@adidas you may want to rethink the subject line” and “Dear @adidas, I love you, but you need to talk to whoever is doing your email marketing…” (Calfas, 2017).

Adidas quickly apologized for the email, saying “We are incredibly sorry. Clearly, there was no thought given to the insensitive email subject line we sent Tuesday. We deeply apologize for our mistake. The Boston Marathon is one of the most inspirational sporting events in the world. Every year we’re reminded of the hope and resiliency of the running community at this event” (Daily, 2017). This would be Adidas reacting to the crisis.

There isn’t much Adidas could have done besides apologize. The reactive stage makes room for conflict resolution along with litigation PR, but Adidas was not in any legal trouble, nor did anyone or anything get physically hurt by the email.

Following the reactive stage is the recovery stage. This is the point where a company would handle reputation management and image restoration. Since Adidas was so quick to apologize about the email and let everyone know that they didn’t mean what the email was interpreted as, their reputation wasn’t damaged too terribly.

Moving forward, Adidas will most likely triple and quadruple check every email that gets sent, along with all other communications. The Boston Marathon was a catastrophic event that changed the lives of thousands of Americans, and no company in their right mind would purposefully make fun of such an event.

 

Advani, S. (2016, September 26). ‘IMPOSSIBLE IS NOTHING’: EVALUATION OF THE MARKETING PLAN OF ADIDAS. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from https://mpk732t22016clusterb.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/impossible-is-nothing-evaluation-of-the-marketing-plan-of-adidas/

Berry, C. (2013, April 16). Top 10 deadliest bombings on U.S. soil. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://www.masslive.com/news/boston/index.ssf/2013/04/top_10_deadliest_bombings_on_u.html

Calfas, J. (2017, April 18). Adidas Apologizes for ‘You Survived’ Boston Marathon Email. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://time.com/4745066/adidas-boston-marathon-email/

Daily, S. B. (2017, April 18). Adidas Congratulates Marathon Runners for “Surviving,” Apologizes. Retrieved October 02, 2017, from http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2017/04/18/adidas-email-marathon-surviving/

 

How to Become a Certifiable Know-it-all

One thing I’ve noticed since starting college, and really just life in general, is that there are some people who think they know everything. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some people who do know a lot of stuff about a lot of things (more on this later), but that’s not who I’m talking about. I think you know who I’m talking about. That person in your class that won’t shut up about the latest and greatest of something he clearly knows nothing about. Those people are, in my opinion, the worst. However, if these people did just a little bit of research, to have just the slightest bit of knowledge to back up their latest spiel, they would become significantly less annoying.

Now, hearing someone spew nonsense on a bus, or in a class is one thing. Having to listen to it in a professional environment, or worse, a business meeting might be worse, for their reputation as well as your own sanity. This is why research, especially in PR is so freaking important.

“Public relations is an art and a science focused on finding the best strategies and tactics to accomplish a client’s objectives. This knowledge comes from a mix of experience, an understanding of the media and the client and quality research” (Mitchell Communications Group, 2013). There are three different levels to research, basic, intermediate, and advanced. Basic research is simple stuff that you do every day, such as monitoring social media, reading the clients websites, or looking up facts. People often do basic research without even realizing it.  Intermediate is a little more in depth, and includes collecting and analyzing data and media. The most complex type of research is advanced. Advanced research includes analyzing competitors, doing statistical analyses or ROIs (Mitchell Communications Group, 2013).

One key part of Public Relations is reputation management, “this focuses on the image or reputation of the client organization, as measured by its popularity or value as a supplier, buyer, partner, employer, lender, citizen or investment” (Hutton, 1999). Managing someone else’s reputation is going to be really hard if you can’t even keep your own reputation under control. Along with this, managing other people is going to require a lot of research, that’s right, research (it’s everywhere I know). In order to manage a person or company’s reputation, you’ll want to know everything there is to know about them, their competitors, and anything going on in the field that they’re in. This is going to require a lot of research to make sure you know what you’re talking about when you speak to, or about them.

Now getting back to the people I was talking about earlier, you know, the ones who never shut up. They’d actually be really good at PR, if they’d just do some research (it’s everywhere!!). “Good PR is the telling of a good story. The better the story, the better the acceptance by the public and the better the public relations” (Lautenslager, 2003). These types of people clearly love to talk and love to tell a story, so just imagine how successful they’d be if they spent a couple hours researching whatever it is they won’t shut up about. Then, they’d actually be a know-it-all, they wouldn’t just have to act like one.

 

Hutton, J. G. (1999). The definition, dimensions, and domain of public relations. Public Relations Review,25(2), 199-214. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0363811199801623?via%3Dihub

Lautenslager, A. (2003, November 17). Why You Need PR. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/65672

Mitchell Communications Group (2013, March 19). Public Relations: The Value and Importance of Research. Retrieved September 21, 2017, from http://blog.mitchcommgroup.com/mitchell-communications-group/public-relations-the-value-and-importance-of-research